4 guys and 2 Forks (part 2)
Three Winstons and a Bean
The sun breaks through the early morning cloud cover above the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rays of light brighten the top portion of the pines displaying the rich green pigment of their boughs. The bottom boughs are still shadowed in a dull olive state. Rising vapors of moisture diminish in the air around me like the steam from boiling pasta water. I sip on a cup of hot tea as jets of water pulsate against my lower back and below my shoulder blades. Jeff had said soaking in the hot tub spa, that sat on the back deck of our rented cabin, would loosen up my joints and get me ready for a full day of smallmouth fishing. The spa thermometer reads 103*. It’s already 70+ degrees, at 7:00am, outside in Luray Virginia and I’m soaking in 103* water! Doesn’t make sense to me! I finish my cup of tea, turn off the jets and walk into the air conditioned cabin. ‘Heck‘, I think, ‘I was born ready to fish!’
My 2 sons, Jeff and I meet our guide, Jack, at Harry Murray’s Fly Shop/Pharmacy in the small town of Edinburg at 9:00am. After discussion we decide to fish the North Fork of the Shenandoah River until around 1:00 and then head over to the South Fork in the afternoon. After meeting Harry Murray we buy a few flies and poppers the guide suggests and head to the North Fork.
At the bank of the North Fork we look out over the water before getting our gear together. The clear water flows at a slow gradient meandering around small islands of Stargrass and surface rocks in shallow areas. The rising sun brightens the bottom of the of the river and exposes the 2 to 3 foot strands of Stargrass submerged and wavering in the slow undercurrent. Not being that wide across the river it looks more like an inviting Pennsylvania trout stream than a full blown river. Jeff and my sons notice fish rising upriver while I was noticing the shaded waters of the river in small coves under the heavy leafed trees along the far bank.
Back at the vehicles Jeff pieces together his 6 pc. LLBean 6wt. Rod. If there is one rod that fits Jeff’s casting stroke to a ’T’ it is this one. With this in his hand he casts smooth and graceful with less effort than any of his others. I piece together my few months old Winton 6wt. 9’ vapor rod. Jack takes out the rods the boys are going to use. They are Winston 9’ 6wt. Ascent rods over-lined with 7wt. Bass tapers. Not bad for a shop rod to use all day!
Back at the river the group, including Jack, head upstream to the tempting rising fish.
I have my sights set on the slow water coves and slowly fish my way towards them with one of my infamous olive woolly buggers. With a 9’ 3x tapered leader, as prescribed by Harry himself, I over-hand cast out into the waist high clear water. At the end of the swing, on my second cast, a bump is felt and I set the hook. The fish fights across stream, below me, and I bring him in through the current. I lift the fat 11” chub, I later find out they are fallfish, with my left hand and call out to the group upriver and show them the fish. Within 3 more casts I produce a 9” smallmouth that takes the bugger on the swing. By the time I’m within comfortable casting distance of the far bank I pull in two more fallfish and another small smallie. Hearing a frog croak against the bank, downriver, I feel it’s a good time to try a popper. I select a homemade cork popper that’s painted green with yellow spots. With its chartreuse tail and brown rubber legs I feel should give it movement enough to draw attention when I’m not pooping it. The Winston rod casts the popper nicely and it plops upriver below a small run of water flowing through a cluster of shallow rocks and stones. With a quick pull of line, to attract attention, the popper gurgles up some water as it flows downstream. A small surface splash and I pull back on the long extended line. I feel a small fish on the other end and bring him to my side. A 6” sunfish dangles from the size 10 hook. I shake the fish off the hook and proceed with my fishing. This time I cast under an overhanging branch and as soon as the popper hit’s the water a fish surfaces and attacks it. I wrist and strip set the hook and the fight tells me this isn’t another sunfish. I let the smallie fight along the bank shortly and then bring him across the current to hand. I release another 9“-10" smallmouth. Working the popper and the olive woolly bugger I continue to hook up with smallies and other fish and this keeps me in the general area.
It doesn’t take too long before the group passes behind me to fish downriver in deeper water.
Jack stops by and we chat about fishing. He convinces me, easily I might add, to try a blue Harry Murray popper. I let him tie the popper on using a Duncan loop. Casting out into the cove and working the popper doesn’t produce any strikes. Jack finally gives up and suggests maybe going back to the popper I was using before he showed up. I show him the unattractive popper and tie this to my leader. Within 5 casts I produce a smallie at the end of my line.
Now I’m not putting down Harry Murray’s $5.50 professionally tied eye catching blue popper by any means. In fact the boys and I did catch a few fish later on it while blue damsel flies were roaming the waters. I was just proving a point that a 5 cent painted Trader Horn cork, when prepared to catch fish, eye catching to the fishermen or not, can still produce caught fish!
While Jack and I were talking we noticed Jeff pulling in fish almost one after another. He found the ’gathering’ and was catching smallies and fallfish with a Harry Murray olive Strymph. With the three spaced out downriver from me I noticed all were hooking into fish occasionally but Jeff found the real hot spot.
Near noon Giddeon and Jeff moved down river further and that gave me a chance to move into the deeper water. Jeremy hung around near me and we fished the far bank, still under shade, catching a few fish now and then. It also gave us some good father/son time to shoot the bull.
Around 12:30 the clouds finally broke up into small masses so the sun could beam its powerful rays more often upon us and heat things up. We broke for lunch around 1:30pm. Back at the vehicles Jack laid out a spread of cold cuts, chips and fruit. We elected to drink our beer with our lunch instead of his bought spring water.
Talking amongst ourselves Giddeon felt comfortable with the ascent rod. He enjoyed the action and liked the power it had to cast the heavy weighted streamers and buggers he was using. Jeremy felt the difference also but with his gradual easy casting stroke felt he would have been more relaxed with his own 5/6 wt. rod.
After lunch we packed up and followed the guide to the deeper faster running waters of the South Fork below a power dam for some fast action, quick current, and fish fighting fun!